With future for Gaddafi son unknown, Niger wary

Saif al-Islam, 39, is desperately seeking to avoid the fate of his father, who was beaten, abused and shot by forces of Libya's National Transitional Council.

October 31, 2011 12:16
1 minute read.
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi [file]

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah)

NIAMEY - The likely flight of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi from Libya to neighboring Niger leaves the West African nation trying to balance its commitment to the International Criminal Court with avoiding another rebellion by heavily armed Tuareg tribesmen.

After the killing of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya itself risks tribal violence, insurgency and chaos unless Tripoli's new government disarms regional militias and eases the grievances bottled up during 42 years of one-man rule.

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Thought to be on the run somewhere in the mountains on Libya's southern borders with Algeria and Niger, Saif al-Islam, 39, is desperately seeking to avoid the fate of his father, who was beaten, abused and shot as forces of Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) captured him on Oct. 20 after the fall of his home town Sirte.

Saif al-Islam's surrender to the ICC would help restore the image of the NATO-backed campaign to overthrow Gaddafi which was tarnished in the eyes of some in the West by film of the former strongman humiliated, killed and put on public display.

The ICC wants to try Saif al-Islam for crimes against humanity and its prosecutor said on Sunday he had "substantial evidence" that Saif al-Islam had helped hire mercenaries to attack Libyan civilians protesting against his father's rule.

"We have a witness who explained how Saif was involved with the planning of the attacks against civilians, including in particular the hiring of core mercenaries from different countries and the transport of them, and also the financial aspects he was covering," ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told Reuters during a visit to Beijing.

"So we have substantial evidence to prove the case, but of course Saif is still (presumed) innocent, and (will) have to go to court and the judge will decide," he said.

Moreno-Ocampo said he would brief the UN Security Council on Wednesday about the court's work in Libya.

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